Friday Finds At A Favorite Book Store

I headed across the state to Harrisonburg for a workshop and left early enough to have time to stop into the Green Valley Book Fair. Off the beaten path, this warehouse is a book lover’s dream…sprawling shelves and tables with a wide variety of books.  It is only open for several weeks at a time and you can find deals everywhere.  I limit myself to one basket of books and walked away with a nice stack.

The two by David Baldacci–Stone Cold and Divine Justice–would not normally have interested me, but I started listening to The Collectors as I drove and was happy to discover this is a series.  Two more–The Best of Virginia Farms and Self-Sufficiency–will be added to the farming shelf.  I really don’t need another book that tells me how to do everything as Self-Sufficiency promises, but I opened it right to an easy recipe for strawberry jam and with strawberries coming in very soon, it just seemed destiny.  I added Bernard Cornwell’s The Burning Land, the 5th books in the Alfred the Great series, which means I still have 3 to go before I can read it.  (The Pale Horseman is waiting on my Nook once I finish this post.)  And, finally, a new edition of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee and Walker Evans, will join the southern writing shelf.

100_0001I LOVE this part of Virginia. The landscape reminds me so much of Lancaster County in Pennsylvania, where I grew up.  The hills roll a bit more but the dairy farms with their silos and neat farmsteads are similar. When I left the bookstore, I chose the third route suggestion on my map app as it took me over the dirt roads rather than putting me back on Route 81.  I was rewarded with gorgeous views of farms and cloud-filled skies.

Book Therapy

With the state technology conference just a few days away, I am a little busy.  But today I just needed a break.  I used some minor conference related errands as an excuse for a little book therapy and slipped into the local Books A Million.  There I found As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child & Avis Devoto.  This is a book that makes connections: I am a Julia fan, having grown up watching her shows.  I read My Life in France earlier this year after being charmed by Meryl Streep’s portrayal in Julie and Julia. And I’m a Lewis & Clark fan.  What’s the connection?  Avis Devoto was married to Bernard Devoto, who edited the versions of the journals we carried with us on our 1998 trip out west.  We visited the DeVoto Grove in northern Idaho, one of the most beautiful parts of the country, in my humble opinion.  I couldn’t find a good picture of the grove itself.

MVC-013FI’ve just started uploading pictures from that trip.  You can take a look: no captions or dates or locations yet.  But not bad for an old Sony Mavica.  We loved that camera and created webpages and uploaded them to the web by buying time at Kinko’s. $12/hour!  The good old days!

Getting Caught Up I

It’s great to be home!  I’ve been in Denver since last Friday at the American Educational Research Association annual meeting where I presented my dissertation research along with some research I did with colleagues.  This is the BIG one: they have 24,000 members all over the world and almost half attend the meeting.  Presenting counts on the vita and there are lots of graduate students networking to find a post doc.  The program is unbelievable really with presentations, keynotes, and special interest group business meetings and receptions going on non-stop.  After two full days, I was ready for a break so I spent Monday exploring Denver.  Here’s the mosaic…lots more at flickr.

Denver Mosaic

1. On the 16th Street Mall, 2. Daniels and Fisher Tower, 3. P5030413, 4. The Old Prospector, 5. Decorations Along the Street, 6. St. Cajetan’s, 7. The Molly Brown House, 8. 123/365 Along the Street, 9. 120/365 for 2010 The Big Blue Bear, 10. Historic Buildings Along Larimer St., 11. Capital Hill Books, 12. Rockmount Ranchwear Bldg, 13. Union Station, 14. Tattered Cover, 15. P5030420, 16. Fence in Ninth Street Park

I’ve got lots more to tell about books and book stores but I’ll wait. Enjoy the photos!

Travelogue: Salisbury

Had a leisurely breakfast and then took the ten-minute walk to downtown Salisbury.  We found the cathedral and spent time wandering through its transcepts and chapels.  The cathedral also houses one of the best copies of the Magna Carta.  I was a little disappointed in my pictures but you just can’t do justice to these amazing buildings.

Travelogue: Church Yards and Abbeys

We spent our last night in Wales at the Baskerville Arms Hotel in Clyro, walking distance from Hay-on-Wye.  The hotel takes its name from the Arthur Conan Doyle story and some believe he drew his inspiration from stories in this area.I took an early morning walk through the church yard.  We had been seeing them along the drive and walked through a few with their old trees and grave markers.  This one was lovely with ivy covered stones, the view of the Welsh hills beyond, and the old village houses on all sides.

Then, it was ruined abbey day.  We started at Tintern Abbey, along the Wye River.  It’s amazingly well preserved despite the lack of a roof.  The interpretation is very good; they really help you visualize what it looked like in the 12th century.  It wasn’t crowded and I found myself waiting for the monks to come from the chapter house.  Took time to read Wordsworth’s poem out of the volume I bought in Hay-on-Wye the day before.  We had lunch at the little tea room across the road.  Despite having beautiful weather to see the Abbey, it started to rain and hail so we stayed for an extra cup of coffee and I had a slide of Banoffee Pie.  Then, it was a quick dash to our car and on to Glastonbury.

The weather was awful as we cruised the motorway.  Rain, then a little snow even.  We wondered if it was worth heading to Glastonbury but we persevered and by the time we got there it had stopped raining and the sun came out.  Glastonbury is where the monks found the supposed grave of Arthur and Guinevere and I felt like I had to make the pilgrimage.  Of course, it might have just been a 12th century hoax to bring money to an ailing community.  The site is marked even though the stone and remains are gone.  Glastonbury, like most abbeys including Tintern, was basically torn down during Henry VIII’s disolution.  All the good stuff–windows, lead, decorations–were taken and sold.  There is little left of Glastonbury but it is still an impressive ruin sitting right in the middle of town.

Because of its ties to Joseph of Arimathea and Arthur and Merlin, Glastonbury has turned into something of a new age town.  Lots of magic shops and flyers advertising healing and tarot readings.

We made it into Salisbury without incident.  We are staying at the Rokeby Guest House, an Edwardian brick house which is just a ten-minute walk to the city center.  We made the walk last night to eat at Harper’s Restaurant.  Had a lovely supper and today we are ready to explore the cathedral.

Travelogue: A Rainy Day in Wales

We headed down the coast from north to south Wales on a rainy, dark day.  We stopped at the Trefriw Woolen Mills for some shopping.  I managed to find a few things…a couple sweaters on the sale rail that were hand knit and a lovely bag.

Then, it was on to Criccieth Castle, along the coast.  It should have been just a 20 minute drive but we ran into the world famous Snowdonia Marathon.   We followed the runners along with lots of other traffic for almost an hour.  And a hardy lot they were as they plowed along through gusty winds and driving rain.

The rain let up as we reached the castle although the wind continued.  I was determined to see a Welsh castle, one used by the Llewelyns so my father and I trudged up the hill.  While there seems to be some controversy about the castle’s origins, CADW, the Welsh historic trust (it means “care” in Welsh), seems sure that it was built by Llewelyn ap Iowerth and then added onto by his grandson and successor Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, who had been imprisoned here by his half-brother Dafydd as they fought for control of Wales.  It was prehaps the most stunning of the castles even though it was in the worst shape.  The wind whipped around us as we looked over the castle walls out to Tremadog Bay.  We had a real sense of the wildness of Wales and its long history.

We ended our day at North Headborough, a bed and breakfast located on a farm near Haverfordwest.  It is located on a small holding complete with sheep and chickens.  I had my first English breakfast.  We got back early and enjoyed just relaxing in the lounge.  South Wales is just beautiful with its rolling green hills lined with hedge rows and dotted with sheep.  I took a walk around the farm and watched the sun rise over the hills.

Travelogue: Pembrokeshire

The south of Wales seems a little less wild than the north.  We explored St. David’s peninsula, beginning with Pembroke in the north and then St. David’s, Britain’s smallest town, in the south.

Pembroke Castle is known as the birthplace of the Tudor Dynasty.  Of all the castles we visited, it is the most restored with floors in the towers that can be reached by the winding stone stairs.  There were extensive exhibits on both the history of the castle as well as England itself.

From Pembroke, we headed north to St. David’s to visit the cathedral and the ruins of the bishop’s palace next door.  Our drive took us along St. Bride’s Bay and we stopped at Solva for lunch.

The cathedral is lovely.  It is built on the site of a monastery originally built in the 6th century.  Tradition says that St. David was born in the town in 5oo AD.   The cathedral became a popular pilgrimage site during the middle ages.  Throughout its long history, it has been attacked by Vikings, nearly destroyed during the Reformation and almost abandoned in the 20th century.  We wandered through its chapels, appreciating the tombs of nobles and knights as well as its treasury of church relics.

Behind the cathedral are the ruins of the bishop’s palace.  Built by Bishop Gower in the 13th century, you can see the remains of large rooms and imagine how it must have looked when the bishop lived there.  It is quite picturesque and well sign posted.

We went into the tiny town of St. David’s and had tea at The Sampler Tea House. We haven’t had official tea yet so this was a nice way to end the day.  There was a warm fire in the cozy shop, which featured embroidered samplers, and we ate cucumber sandwiches, scones, and Bara Brith, traditional Welsh fruit cake.

Travelogue: Hay on Wye

I am something of a bookaholic so friends recommended that I visit Hay-on-Wye, the book store town.  It made a nice stopping point between south Wales and Salisbury.  We arrived around noon and started with a lunch at the cozy Blue Boar pub.   The town has new and second hand bookstores throughout its winding, narrow streets. There is also an extensive “honesty” bookstore…basically book shelves around the castle that offer paperbacks for 30p and hardbacks for 50p.  I picked up Paul Theroux’s The London Embassy from those shelves.  I bought an old copy of Wordsworth in another story.  It seemed appropriate since our visit to the Lake District and Dove Cottage.  Also found an anthology of poetry about London in another shop.  Finally, I couldn’t resist The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn that I found in the book store located in Hay Castle.

Travelogue: North Wales

Today was castle day on the trip.  We started with Conwy Castle, located just a few minutes away from where we are staying in the seaside resort of Colwyn Bay.  The town of Conwy has its wall in tact and the castle was built by Edward I in the late 13th century as part of his plan to subdue Wales.  We arrived just in time to take a guided tour.  Neil, our tour guide, was fabulous!  I learned more about defending castles than I had ever known.  He also added to my knowledge of Welsh history and the rocky relationship of England and Wales.

We ate lunch across from the castle then strolled into the center of town to see the statue of Llewelyn the Great, who almost succeeded in uniting Wales against the English.

From Conwy, we crossed the Menai Strait to Anglesey to visit Beaumaris Castle, the last castle built by Edward I.  It was never completed but offers fabulous views of the town and the straits.  Our lessons from the morning helped us understand what we were seeing.

Again, we strolled into town, this time to find the sarcophagus of Joan, the wife of Llewelyn the Great, which is in the Beaumaris Parish Church.   I found myself wandering through another lovely churchyard then looking at spectactular stained glass windows while the organist practiced inside the church.

We returned to Colwyn Bay and I took a walk along the water.  We had a lovely dinner at the Rhos Harbour Bistro.

Travelogue: More Lake District

Waiting for the LaunchAfter a breakfast of porridge and toast, we headed out…started in Keswick where I took the Keswick Launch around Derwentwater, the most photographed of the lakes.  I had some idea of getting off at Lodore to go see the waterfalls, but somehow missed the stop because I didn’t realize they had skipped the first dock on the map.  Oh well…you can see the old hotel and waterfalls from the lake so all was not lost and I got wonderful views of the lake district from the bow of the boat.  Lots of folks were heading out for hikes.

I got back into town with time to kill before meeting St. John's Churchyardmy folks, so I poked around the St. John’s churchyard, vaguely looking for the grave of poet Robert Southey, but mostly enjoying the solitude.

Next stop was Grasmere…this time to visit the Wordsworth family graves in the churchyard of St. Oswald’s.  Then, thanks to a tip from a friend, we stopped into Sarah Nelson’s for gingerbread.  Just a tiny shop next to the church.  We also had lunch in town right next to the bridge over the River Rothay.

Castelrigg Stone CircleWe had time so decided to check out the Castlerigg Stone Circle.  It is the oldest circle and one of many that can be found in this part of England.  It was crowded with a school group so we snapped a few pictures and then wandered across the field to look at sheep over the stone fence.  We had one of those great accidental moments:  we missed the stone circle the first time and found a pottery where we were just going to turn around.  Instead, we bought mugs and vases and chatted with the owner, Jan Burgess.

From there, we headed south along the lake to the Ashness Bridge with its beautiful view across the lake.  We continued south over the dramatic Honister Pass.  Just huge mountains and sheep on either side.

Check out more Lake District photos here.

Then we had one of those not-so-great accidental moments.  We managed to hit a rock and flatten two tires on the car.  We flagged down a passing motorist who was unbelievably helpful.  He and his wife drove into the next little town for a pay phone–no cell service out in the fells.  He came back to let us know that the Royal Automobile Club was on the job.   And, sure enough, some time later, a chap showed up to let us know that he had been in touch with our rental agency and they were going to exchange the car for us.  Unfortunately, it meant having to drive to Newcastle, about 90 minutes away.  As we sat in the car waiting for the tow, it got dark and then rainy and then windy and it was oddly exciting, if a little scary, to be stuck there.  But, no worries, the two truck driver appeared soon after and we took a lively ride with him to get our new car.  It was fun to chat with him about politics (the English are sure Barack Obama will be the next president) and sports and the ways of the world. We were tucked into our beds at the farm by 2:30 AM and I’m trying not to think how much it might cost.  Mostly, we’re thinking about how nice and friendly everyone was!